University officials claim that at least 600 of the 1,800 striking UC Berkeley clerical workers crossed the picket line and went to work Monday, despite the start of a three-day strike.
Such statistics lent credence to the university’s position that striking operators, library assistants and secretaries have not drastically impacted university operations.
The clerical workers are trying to disrupt campus operations in an effort to draw attention to UC’s alleged unfair labor practices during a contentious contract negotiation process.
Union officials, however, called the university’s numbers bogus, and said that two days into their strike they’ve put a tremendous amount of pressure on UC administrators to treat them better at the bargaining table.
“I really question their figures,” said Amattulah Alaji-Sabrie, spokesperson for the Coalition of University Employees, which represents the clericals. “The university has realized the strength of our support and has orchestrated a campaign of misinformation.”
Carol Hyman, university spokesperson, said UC Berkeley conducted an informal survey of several large departments at which 1,000 of the 1,800 striking clericals work. Of the 1,000 clericals covered, 600 had come to work, she said.
Union officials said they had no estimate of how many members are working during the strike, but said they had more strikers on the picket lines Tuesday than on Monday and that their work stoppage has caused the university numerous headaches.
The math department has been closed and the clericals and administrative assistants are out at Boalt Law School, Alaji-Sabrie said, adding that most construction sites remained unmanned and that union-driven delivery trucks were being turned away.
Sympathy strikes have also hindered university operations, union officials said.
Many graduate students have refused to work or teach classes during the strike, said Dan Lawson, president of Local 2865 of the United Auto Workers, which represents approximately 2,500 graduate student instructors.
Snehal Shingavi, a graduate student instructor in the English department, said that he knew of at least 12 other graduate students who were refusing to teach classes during the strike.
Fifty nurses represented by the California Nurses Association are also participating in a sympathy strike with the clericals.
“We all suffer from the same delay tactics,” said Donna Nicholas of the nurses union.
The nurses strike has forced the university to cancel medical appointments at the campus health center. A staff of doctors and management level nurses are still providing urgent and primary care.
The university denied that any departments had completely shut down. Hyman said that although the math and anthropology offices were closed at certain times, nonunion staff remained at their jobs and returned telephone calls.
“Each department has worked on its own plan to keep offices running. Obviously, some things are lagging, but managers and supervisors are picking up tasks,” she said.
The clerical workers have been without a contract for 18 months and remain far from settling a salary increase. Clericals want a 15 percent raise over two years but the university system is offering only 3.5 percent.
Wednesday’s strike will likely strain university resources even further. Six hundred university lecturers, who union officials say constitute 45 percent of university teachers (the university puts the number at 22 percent) will strike alongside the clericals. More than 300 classes are expected to be canceled during that one-day walkout.
The lecturers, represented by the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, are nontenured professors whose primary responsibility is to teach, not research.
According to union representative Michael Eisencher, the university has failed to support them financially and professionally.
“Lecturers have the same qualifications as tenured professors, but they don’t get the same pay,” Eisencher said.
The average lecturer makes $40,000, less than half the average salary for a tenured professor.
Lecturers also have less job security. Presently, lecturers must accept one-year contracts. Only after six years are they eligible for three-year contracts.
Many lecturers who have been without a contract for two years held classes Monday and Tuesday to inform students about their strike.
“We’ve planned this to minimize the consequences for students,” said Jim Stockinger, a sociology lecturer.